Africa’s richest man and President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has called on African countries to dismantle all economic barriers hindering free trade amongst them in order to achieve sustainable growth and development across the continent.

The leading entrepreneur made the call in Lagos at the launch of The World Ahead 2023, a special publication by The Economist.

Dangote, who was represented by the Group Executive Director/Group Chief Risk Officer, Dangote Industries Limited, Dr. Adenike Fajemirokun, noted that the crucial task of building a sustainable future that guarantees equitable growth and prosperity for all should not be left to the public sector alone but should also involve the private sector.

He expressed the irrevocable commitment of Dangote Industries Limited to solving some of the economic challenges faced by Africa and its people, saying it was in pursuit of that goal that the organisation has committed over $20 billion in investments in several key sectors of the African economy aimed at turning around the continent’s fortunes in the quest for sustained economic growth through free trade and economic integration.

According to him, Dangote Industries Limited has made massive investments of over $20 billion across key industries, including energy, agriculture, and infrastructure.

“Our recently commissioned 3 million-metric-tonne fertiliser plant, expansions in cement production, and our soon-to-be commissioned 650,000-barrels-per-day world’s largest single-train refinery are all set to empower farmers, foster backward integration, create thousands of jobs, eliminate our dependence on imported products, and improve our nation’s foreign exchange earnings significantly,” Dangote said.

He said the conglomerate is also confronting environmental issues through its investment in alternative fuels, as well as unlocking enormous opportunities in the communities where it has its footprints, while ultimately ensuring that it keeps delivering huge value to its shareholders.

“The multilayered issues that we face globally and across regions today, ranging from rising energy costs, food insecurity, supply-chain disruptions, access to quality healthcare, cybersecurity, inflation amongst others, brought about by the pandemic or other human factors like the Russia-Ukraine war, call for an objective rethink of geopolitics and geo-economics, especially as they vastly affect policy execution and the ease of doing business in more vulnerable economies,” he stated.

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Drawing the attention of the international audience to the need for all hands to be on deck towards lifting Africa above the various socio-economic challenges facing the countries, Dangote pointed to the continent’s population growth projections.

“Nigeria, for instance, is projected to be the world’s third-largest population by 2050 surpassing the United States, only behind India and China, so the question of sustained economic growth has become increasingly critical and isn’t one for a single sector to tackle alone. To secure the future of our country and our continent, we must forge strong public-private partnerships and dismantle regional barriers with vehicles like the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA),” Dangote said.

“Going forward, the overarching conversations, whether at global or regional levels, in emerging markets or in OECD countries, must be refocused towards exploring the specifics of our fast-changing world in order to align public-private perspectives and identify areas for collaboration for the collective good of people, planet, and profit,” he said.

He described the publication by The Economist as a rich body of work that offers useful data for all sectors to draw and synthesize insights towards arriving at cutting-edge action points.

Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said the publication was a valuable document for policymakers and strategic planners, noting that its contents reaffirm part of the strategies the Lagos State government has executed to make the state assume its status as the preferred destination of choice for investors.

Hamzat explained that Lagos, with just 0.4 percent of Nigeria’s land mass, has 11 percent of the country’s population, accounting for why some of the challenges in Lagos are peculiar to the metropolis. Yet, the state is Africa’s fastest growing economy.

The deputy governor said a key policy of the state government is to improve its investment profile by providing an enabling environment, noting that the state has invested billions of naira in infrastructure and technology. He cited the Lekki Deep Seaport as one of the enablers which have made Lagos attract 60 percent of the Foreign Direct Investment into Nigeria.